Going Where Editorials Fear to Tread? Other GOP Senators Join Lugar in Call for Reversing Course in Iraq

By: E&P Staff and The Associated Press Sen. Richard Lugar, a senior Republican and a reliable vote for President Bush on the war, said Monday that Bush's Iraq strategy was not working -- and that the U.S. should downsize the military's role. Other key GOP senators joined him today.

?I hail what he did,? said Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), former chairman of the Armed Services Committee. ?It shows the strength that each of us individually must bring to this debate.? Warner said that he too feels the September reporting date is too long to wait to revise U.S. war policy.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) sent a letter to Bush on Tuesday asserting that the president should adopt a policy of "responsible military disengagement with a corresponding increase [in] non-military support" to help the United States achieve a stable and democratic Iraq. Voinovich warned that the window of opportunity for enacting such a plan is limited, but added: "However, I am also concerned that we are running out of time."

?I think September is absolutely the endpoint of decision, whether individuals will come to a conclusion before that, I think is likely,? said Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina. ?What you?re beginning to see is a natural process of people evaluating the events on the ground in Iraq.?

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said troops levels should be reduced ?as soon as it is realistic to do it.?

The unusually blunt assessment deals a political blow to Bush, who has relied heavily on GOP support to stave off anti-war legislation.

The position of not even waiting until the "surge" report due in September lines up with the recent editorial in the far more liberal Los Angeles Times. Surprisingly few newspaper editorials have called for the start of a withdrawal, however.

Polls have long shown that the public backs such a move by roughly 2 to 1, and that about 70% give President Bush a negative rating on his handling of the war.

Lawmakers should "give the Baghdad security plan an opportunity to unfold'' before the September assessment due to Congress, White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters today. But he said that Lugar was a "serious" man who had to be taken seriously.

Lugar's speech came as a surprise. Most Republicans have said they were willing to wait until September to see if Bush's recently ordered troop buildup in Iraq was working.

"In my judgment, the costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits that might be achieved," Lugar, R-Ind., said in a Senate floor speech. "Persisting indefinitely with the surge strategy will delay policy adjustments that have a better chance of protecting our vital interests over the long term."

Only a few Republicans have broken ranks and called for a change in course or embraced Democratic proposals ordering troops home by a certain date. As the top Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar's critique could provide political cover for more Republicans wanting to challenge Bush on the war.

Lugar's spokesman Andy Fisher said the senator wanted to express his concerns publicly before Bush reviews his Iraq strategy in September.

"They've known his position on this for quite a while," Fisher said of the White House.

However, Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

In January, Lugar voted against a resolution opposing the troop buildup, contending that the nonbinding measure would have no practical effect. In spring, he voted against a Democratic bill that would have triggered troop withdrawals by Oct. 1 with the goal of completing the pullout in six months.

Next month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans to force votes on several anti-war proposals as amendments to a 2008 defense policy bill. Members will decide whether to cut off money for combat, demand troop withdrawals start in four months, restrict the length of combat tours and rescind Congress' 2002 authorization of Iraqi invasion.

Expected to fall short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass controversial legislation, the proposals are intended to increase pressure on Bush and play up to voters frustrated with the war.


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